Bulls: Derrick Rose grateful to be on pace for 70 games played


Bulls: Derrick Rose grateful to be on pace for 70 games played


ATLANTA—It probably doesn’t seem like it to a skeptical fan base, but Derrick Rose is on pace to play his highest percentage of games since his 2010-11 MVP season, even if he misses tonight’s game against the Atlanta Hawks.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said Rose is questionable with right hamstring tendinitis, and he could miss his second straight game with the recovery.

“He obviously knows his body very well,” said Hoiberg at Atlanta’s Philips Arena following the morning shootaround, in which Rose did everything but the walkthrough.

“Something flared up (at Tuesday’s practice), it was three games in four nights,” Hoiberg said. “He had some swelling in that hamstring. It’s better than it was but he’s still got some soreness.”

Having played in 48 of 56 games, Rose is participating at an 85.7 percent clip, which would put him on track to play around 70 games this season. If you would’ve told him before the season he would play 69 or 70 games, he would’ve gladly accepted the outcome.

“Hell yeah, hell yeah,” Rose told CSNChicago.com after his session with the media. “Especially with everything I’ve been through, the year I have coming up (next year) and just everything. I’m grateful to be out here, appreciative to be out there.

“I wish I could play in every game, I wish I could’ve played all 82. Realistically I gotta bring it back down to reality and know that my body is a little bit differently.”

Breaking his orbital bone on the first day of training camp, along with the “general soreness” or “hamstring tendinitis” terms has brought upon the naysayers who believe Rose just willfully sits out games despite being healthy enough to play, but virtually everyone involved with the Bulls trusts him when he says he’s hurting.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

After all, this February has been his best since March 2012, the lockout season that ended in the first of his debilitating knee injuries. He averaged 24.3 points and 9.4 assists in seven games that month.

This February, he’s at 21.9 points, 6.0 assists and 5.6 rebounds in eight games so far. In three games since the All-Star break, Rose has taken it up another notch, with 26 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists on 57 percent shooting, 50 from three and 92 percent from the line.

In that three game sample size, his offensive rating is a Curry-like 124 points per 100 possessions.

With that production, Hoiberg isn’t qualming too much about Rose’s body fighting back a bit.

“He had a pretty good load in three games in four nights,” Hoiberg said. “He had a great burst, his energy was excellent. We’re not putting any risk out there. Our doctors and trainers don’t seem too concerned.”

Never one to nail himself down to firm expectations, understandable considering the way he’s career has gone, Rose just wanted to play more than he has in years past.

“I never put in my head a number I wanted to get to,” Rose told CSNChicago.com. “My thing was playing and how many games it is, it’s what it is. I just wanted it to be more than the years I got injured. It could’ve been 20, 25, 70, 75, it really didn’t matter as long as I’m on the floor, that’s all I needed.”

He’s done that. He’ll likely surpass the 51 games he played last season, and this is right around the time he underwent meniscus surgery on his right knee in 2015.

With the way he’s playing, he isn’t too worried about not being able to regain his rhythm whenever he does step back on the floor.

“Not at all. It’s a process,” Rose said. “I already put it into my mind that the year would be a long year. All I could do was work on my body, control what I could control and the rest is out of my hands.”

Hoiberg doesn’t believe it’ll be a long-term issue and neither do the team doctors, so as long as Rose can finish the season on his feet and not have the prospect of being on his back at a surgeon’s table, it’s a success.

“Yeah, just play,” Rose told CSNChicago.com. “As long as I know I gave it my all and I played as hard as I can, I could care less what happened at the end of the year, knowing I gave it my all.”

Jimmy Butler leaves game unable to put any pressure on right leg after apparent non-contact injury


Jimmy Butler leaves game unable to put any pressure on right leg after apparent non-contact injury

The NBA may have lost another top superstar due to injury.

On Friday, Jimmy Butler appeared to have suffered a non-contact injury to his right knee. He left the game against the Houston Rockets unable to put any pressure on his right leg and needed assistance getting back to the locker room. 

Here's a video of the incident:

Coach Tom Thibodeau said that Butler will have an MRI when the team returns to Minnesota on Saturday.

Butler drew a lot of headlines last weekend after not playing in the NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

Entering Friday, Butler led the league with 37.3 minutes played per game.

The Bulls also take on the Timberwolves in Minnesota on Saturday night.

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

The final 25 games was supposed to be all about the development of the Bulls’ recent acquisitions and securing a record worthy of one of the last three envelopes at the NBA Draft Lottery.

Only Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn seemed to matter, with Cameron Payne and Cristiano Felicio being the perfect window dressing for development as opposed to just saying a team is tanking.

But Bobby Portis is making a case that he isn’t to be forgotten in the big picture, that his worth is more than just being a punchline to the jokes that followed his incident with Nikola Mirotic.

The only thing Portis didn’t do right in the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers was missing a point blank shot that would’ve given the Bulls an improbable and unwanted win, and it would’ve given him 40 points.

Instead he had to settle for a career-high 38 as Joel Embiid was bearing down on Portis when he caught a diagonal pass from Dunn with 1.1 seconds left, having the shorter T.J. McConnell on him and taking a power dribble to gather himself.

“If I could go back I would’ve just went up the first time off the glass like I always do,” Portis said. “We just have to try to close out games better.”

Embiid showed he’s worth all the trouble with his health problems, scoring 30 with 13 rebounds and five rebounds while Ben Simmons put up 32 with 11 assists and seven rebounds as the 76ers improved to 31-25, good enough for seventh place in the East.

In a game that featured remarkable resolve from a purposely undermanned Bulls team as they sat Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday, they put themselves in position to win after trailing by 18 early. After leading by five courtesy of a LaVine walk-down triple with 1:02 left, they made a couple critical errors that allowed the 76ers to steal a game the Bulls won’t mind them taking at the end of 82.

Denzel Valentine’s inbounds pass with 5.9 seconds left was intended for LaVine, but Embiid stepped in front for a steal as they were in position to make it a free-throw game the rest of the way.

Similar to the Bulls’ unlikely win over the Orlando Magic before the All-Star break, they returned the favor as 76ers rookie Ben Simmons made free throws after the steal to give the visitors a one-point lead, setting the stage for the final play.

If learning lessons is what the last 100 quarters of basketball is supposed to be about, the Bulls got a big-time lesson in a game that ultimately means nothing.

“These are learning opportunities for our team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I couldn’t be happier, the way we went out and competed. We dug ourselves an 18-point hold and (fought) our way back—have complete control of the game.”

Control was wrestled from the 76ers by Portis’ able and quick hands. Taking more of a scoring posture since Mirotic’s departure, Portis has never been shy about being aggressive.

But now he’s being encouraged in that department, playing a big part in the Bulls’ tying their franchise record of 18 triples with six of his own, scoring 21 in the first half and not backing down one step from the massive Embiid.

“I kind of struggled from (three) in the last six, seven games,” said Portis, who didn’t take much time off during the All-Star break. “I think I’ve shown this entire year, trying to stay consistent and be a spark off the bench.”

Counting the last two games before the break, Portis has been on the best scoring binge of his career—cementing his place in the league when just a few months ago, many were questioning if the Bulls should’ve actually picked up his player option following the Mirotic incident.

His 25.0 points in the last three, along with scoring in double figures for seven straight games are career-bests. With every flex, every energetic plea to the crowd and resourceful score underneath the rim, Portis is becoming a player the Bulls can’t afford to plan without.

The stage was set for a Portis breakout shortly after the incident, when he was serving his suspension to start the season. When the Bulls traveled to Miami and Orlando, he flew on his own to Orlando for dinner with his mentor, former NBA veteran and Magic assistant coach Corliss Williamson.

Williamson, a player who was not to be trifled with during his career, told Portis essentially, “this too shall pass”.

“Just play your game,” Williamson told NBCSportsChicago.com recently. “Don’t put any pressure on yourself about what’s gonna happen after this year. What’s got him here is hard work, how hard he plays in the game. He continues to do that, he’ll be successful.”

Portis recalled the dinner where he was finally able to confide and unleash after weeks of frustration. Calling Williamson a father figure dating back to their Arkansas roots, where Portis played on Williamson’s AAU teams in middle school, Portis put his trust in him and came back reinvigorated.

“We talked for hours about the whole situation,” Portis told NBCSportsChicago.com “He told me when I come back to come 10 times harder. When people play this game and play the right way, they forget about the other stuff. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Scoring 38 tends to remake a narrative.

“Bobby just continues to improve,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a confident kid that goes out and plays with a ton of swagger and toughness. You need that, to go out and play with that type of effort. He’s tenacious on the glass. He’s getting the crowd into the game.”

When speaking of Portis, Hoiberg’s face went from flush to beaming, knowing how far Portis has come in his three years—being a player who wouldn’t take 3-pointers with confidence to now unleashing them whenever a defender’s feet shows the slightest hint of leaning back.

No hesitation.

“Regardless if I’m making shots, I try to leave it all out on the floor,” Portis said. “It felt good making shots, being able to help the team. I wanted the win tonight.”

Portis helped make up for the Bulls not getting their usual production from Dunn, who struggled guarding the bigger Simmons and Lauri Markkanen, who missed all five of his 3-pointers and made just one field goal in 32 minutes.

“You can put he and Lauri together,” Hoiberg said. “It gives you two guys that can stretch the floor and space it, two guys that can rebound, two that can put it on the floor. It’s exciting to think about when Kris gets his rhythm back.”

And now, Williamson’s words have proven to be prophetic for his pupil, because if the Bulls aren’t seeing Portis as a key part of their future, there’s about 25 other teams who’ll be lining up for his services this summer.

“I told him don’t even worry about it,” Williamson said. “Let your game speak for itself. People who really know you, know what type of person you are. You start producing people will forget about it and love you for what you do on the court.”

His game is talking, even if the Bulls’ loss was one they’d rather have taken in silence.